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Submission guide: EEZ and Continental Shelf Bill

Gareth Hughes MP
Gareth Hughes MP
gareth [dot] hughes [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)
Eugenie Sage MP
Eugenie Sage MP
eugenie [dot] sage [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

The date for sending in a submission on this issue has passed.

Want to make a quick submission? Head for our quick submission form where you can send a prewritten statement. If you have more time, and wish to write your own submission, read on.

Submissions must be received by the Local Government and Environment Select Committee by 5:00pm on Friday 27 January 2012.


The Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf (Environmental Effects) Bill proposes to set up an environmental management regime for certain activities in New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) − the area of sea, seabed and subsoil from 12 to 200 nautical miles offshore − and the Continental Shelf beyond that.

The activities covered by the Bill include seabed mining, some aspects of petroleum activities, energy generation carbon capture and storage, and marine farming.

The Bill improves on the current situation where beyond the territorial sea (12 nautical miles) there is no equivalent legislation to the Resource Management Act (RMA) to manage environmental effects of activities. However, the Bill is heavily weighted towards economic development rather than sustainable management and environmental protection.

It is important to get this Bill right because New Zealand's EEZ and continental shelf is 20 times our land area and contains much of our indigenous biodiversity: Scientists estimate that 80 percent of New Zealand's indigenous biodiversity is in the sea.

Please have your say on this legislation to help protect our biodiversity and the health of our marine ecosystems for present and future generations.

How to have your say

You can have your say on the Bill by sending in a submission, which must be received by the Local Government and Environment Committee by 5:00pm Friday 27 January 2012.

Please mail two printed copies to:

Committee Secretary
Local Government and Environment Select Committee
Parliament House

Or email it to Catherine [dot] Corser [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz and select [dot] committee [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz.

The submission can be as short or long as you like. Be clear and concise. If long, include a summary at the beginning, number the paragraphs, and attach any supporting evidence as appendices. For more information on Parliamentary submissions, click here.

Submission format

Give your name, address, phone number and email address.

State that you wish to appear before the select committee and speak to your submission - you can always decline later. In you are not in Wellington ask to be heard in a city near you or by video link.

Indicate who you are (eg recreational user, business owner, community group member, etc).

If you represent a group, outline its purpose and how many members it has.

Clearly state your concerns about the Bill and the changes you want made.

Great resources to help with your submission

Forest and Bird's submission, the Environmental Defence Society's draft submission, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment's submission will all provide helpful background information, including suggested wording changes.

Key points to include in your submission

Try to put information in your own words and be clear about what you want changed.

1) State clearly that you support:

  • having legislation to establish an environmental management regime for New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone and extended continental shelf;
  • the need for a consenting regime where environmental effects are assessed and applications can be declined; and
  • public notification of ALL applications for marine consents. The oceans are a public commons and public must be involved in decision making.

2) State that you oppose the Bill as drafted for the following reasons:

  • It will not ensure the EEZ and continental shelf are managed sustainably because it promotes economic development ahead of environmental protection.

  • The Bill's current purpose is to "balance" economic development against environmental protection. When the RMA was passed in 1991 this "balancing" approach was rejected in favour of having clear environmental bottom lines which resource use and development should not compromise.

  • It is inconsistent with New Zealand's international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Convention on Biological Diversity which require parties to "protect and preserve" the marine environment.

  • The Bill replaces the "precautionary approach" which is well understood in case law with a weaker "cautionary principle".

  • The matters which the EPA must consider and the weight its decision makers have to give to these matters are weaker and narrower than those in RMA in relation to the preservation and protection of species, habitats, ecosystems and ecological processes.

  • As drafted, the Bill would make it difficult for the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) decision makers to decline consent to high impact activities. This is because of the high threshold test where adverse environmental effects must exceed the activity's contribution to NZ's economic development. This promotes short term economic benefits ahead of environmental sustainability.

3) Include recommendations for how you would improve the Bill. Suggested recommendations are:

  • Changing the Bill's purpose (clause 10) to protecting the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and ecological processes for present and future generations. Environmental organisations such as Forest and Bird and EDS have suggested a reworded purpose for the Bill which is more consistent with the sustainable management purpose of the RMA and New Zealand's international responsibilities.

  • Ensuring the Bill recognises environmental limits. Amend it to give priority to protecting the healthy functioning and resilience of marine ecosystems and make this a matter of national importance.

  • Including a set of environmental principles of national importance with the marine equivalent of sections 6 and 7 of the RMA. (See the EDS submission new clause 12A for examples).
  • Requiring the EPA to consider the contribution to climate change of the EEZ and Continental Shelf resources developed under the act.

  • Replacing references to "economic well being" with "economic sustainability" to reduce emphasis on short term economic gains.

  • Replacing the undefined "cautionary approach" with the well-defined, internationally accepted "precautionary principle" for situations where information is uncertain or if there is a risk of the activity causing significant or irreversible impacts, and ensuring that applications can be declined in these circumstances. The Bill needs to better recognise the risks involved with offshore activities such as oil and gas exploration and the potential for severe environmental effects.
  • Limiting the use of adaptive management in cases where an activity is likely to have serious or irreversible effects.
  • Including new provisions to establish a spatial planning regime for the marine environment (similar to national policy statements and environmental standards under the RMA).

  • Allowing cross examination at EPA hearings so that applicant's evidence can be tested.

  • Ensuring that bonds and public liability insurance provide for incident or accident clean-up costs.
  • Deleting clause 61(2) which allows the EPA to accept or reject consents based simply on whether or not the activity's adverse effects are outweighed by the activity's contribution to economic development. This clause fails to recognise that there are environmental limits which should not be breached regardless of the economic benefits to be gained.

  • Deleting clause 62(4) which would allow the Minister for the Environment to override the EPA and limit conditions the EPA could put on a marine consent.

  • Allowing community organisations and others to be involved in High Court cases.

  • Allowing members of the public to apply to the courts for enforcement orders if legislation or consent conditions are breached. This has not caused problems under the RMA.

  • Strengthen the penalties to include provision for imprisonment and increase the maximum fines.

Good luck with your submission, and thank you for caring enough about the environment and democracy to write one!

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